In the Name of Jesus
Mark 4,35-41 (Matthew 8,23-27; Luke 8,22-25)
4. Sunday after Epiphany (4. Sonntag nach Epiphanias)
Aldegundis, Virgin, Abbess at Maubeuge, France. † 680
30. January 2011
1. O Almighty and Everlasting God, who does govern all things in heaven and earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of Your holy and redeemed people, and in our time grant us Your peace (Book of Common Prayer 164), for we live in a world that is cursed by You on account of Adam’s sin, and although he was the first human being to sin, we, too, are born with the Old Adam’s original sin in our bodies and souls, so that we also are sinful by nature through and through, and therefore we indeed bear the burden of this world’s thorns and thistles. In the winter, the cursed sky pounds us with heavy snowfalls, freezing temperatures, and howling winds, and if it were not for Your Fatherly Providence, we would soon perish just as the disciples feared would happen to them upon the Sea of Galilee. Be merciful to us, O Heavenly Father, for the sake of Your beloved Son Jesus Christ, whose voice the storms and snowfalls of this earth heed and obey, and grant us relief from our sufferings that we endure through the toils and tribulations of this accursed creation, so that we, and creation itself, may be granted a gracious reprieve and praise You as our Creator and Provider in all things. Amen.
2. Our sermon text for this morning, dear brothers and sisters, is from the Gospel according to St. Mark where the holy evangelist writes: 35On that day, when evening had arrived, Jesus said to the disciples, „Let us go across to the other side.“ 36And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, „Teacher, You do care that we are perishing, don’t You?“ 39And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, „Calm down, be still.“ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them, „Why are you afraid? Do you not yet have faith?“ 41And they were filled with great reverence and said to one another, „Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey Him?“ This is our text.
3. The third miracle and wonder in the liturgical season of Epiphany involves Jesus’ power and authority over the very forces of nature. Throughout the Holy Scriptures, Yahweh is described as the Lord of and over creation. Yahweh created nature and the entire universe (Genesis 1 and 2). Yahweh commanded the Flood waters to arrive and to abate (Genesis 6). Yahweh commanded the waters of the Red Sea to part and return (Exodus 14). Yahweh empowered Joshua to cause the sun to cease moving in the sky (Joshua 10). Yahweh commanded the very creatures of the earth and sea (Jonah 1,17; 2,10).
4. Since the Fall, nature has afflicted mankind as often as it has assisted us. The sun can scorch the earth with a drought as well as provide photosynthesis for plants. Rain clouds or rivers can flood a region as well as water the earth. Every sailor knows the power of the wind and wave which can batter a boat or ship on the ocean. Residents along the coastline know the destructive force of a hurricane or tsunami. Wind and wave have the potential to destroy the works of men and women in mere moments.
5. Jesus’ disciples knew how fickle the Sea of Galilee can be, especially the four fishermen who once made their living on those waters. Calm waters could quickly give way to a great, fierce storm. Their cowardice and timidity in the face of such storms could save their lives and their property. The storm that confronted the disciples in Mark 4 was not a simple rain shower, but a thunderous storm that had broken into the boat and was swamping it. In short order, the boat would be flooded and soon sink, and the disciples would have the unpleasant task of either treading water on some flotsam or swim ashore all while the wind howled around them and the waves battered them to and fro. Such a scenario would likely result in some, if not all of them, drowning before they reached the shore’s safety.
6. In the midst of all this frenzy was Jesus who, Mark tells us, was calmly and peacefully sleeping in the ship’s stern. The wind, the waves, and the disciples frantic voices did not stir Jesus from His blissful sleep. Jesus was the calm eye of the raging storm. When the disciples finally rouse Jesus from His nap, His question seems detached and almost absurd, „Why are you afraid?“ The dumbstruck disciples could have rattled off three reasons why they were scared: they are caught in a vicious storm, the boat is swamped, and they are about to go down with the ship. These are all sound reasons to be afraid.
7. Jesus’ second question indicates why His disciples should not have been afraid at all, „Do you not yet have faith?“ Faith is used two ways in the Gospels. First, faith refers to believing in Jesus as the Christ and Savior of the world. Second, faith can be used synonymously with trust, namely does one trust in Jesus. By Mark 4 it is obvious that the disciples have a saving faith in Jesus as the Christ. They have heard Him preach and seen Him perform other miracles. Jesus has already commissioned twelve of these disciples to be apostles. Saving faith, however, does not guarantee complete trust in Jesus. Trust in Jesus often ebbs and flows from circumstance to circumstance. Sometimes the disciples exhibit trust in Jesus, but at other times they fail to trust Him. Part of this is the educational and learning process they are undergoing as Jesus’ disciples as He teaches them the Biblical understanding of the Christ.
8. The stilling of the storm is another miracle in which Jesus teaches His disciples about the ministry of the Christ. Power and authority over the forces of nature is a Divine action. The psalmist proclaims: »They cried to Yahweh in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and He brought them to their desired haven« (Psalm 107,28-30). The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record this miracle of Jesus to show that Jesus fulfills Holy Scripture, specifically Psalm 107.
9. This miracle is even more powerful because Jesus’ disciples still haven’t fully grasped what it means that Jesus is the Christ. On this particular evening, the disciples are fearing for their lives on the Sea of Galilee. The salvation history (Heilsgeschichte) ministry of Jesus is all about smothering fear and triumphing over death. Again, the psalmist declares: »Let them thank Yahweh for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men!« (Psalm 107,31). By calming the storm, Jesus shows God’s steadfast love for His disciples.
10. Furthermore, this miracle shows Jesus’ power and authority over creation. The Son of God who was involved in the universe’s creation here exhibits authority of that very universe. The earth is a fallen and cursed planet on account of our sinfulness. The creation is not the „very good“ place that Yahweh originally made it to be, so much so that because of the fall into sin the world itself is now a disordered, unpredictable, and dangerous place (Gibbs 445). When Jesus calmed the violent storm, His miracle promiseed that there will arrive a time when not just the storms on the Sea of Galilee will be stilled, but the entire creation will be restored to God’s design, to its original conformity under the rule and reign Yahweh who made it (Gibbs 445). While Jesus rescued a few disciples from the raging storm, in the future, on the last day, Jesus will return and redeem every corner of His fallen and cursed creation, restore everything back to its originally created purity, and exercise His Divine authority over death and the grave by raising back to life every single person who has ever lived. For all unbelievers, Jesus will resurrect their bodies and condemn them to everlasting torment in hell, but for all believers, Jesus will give us holy physical bodies and welcome us into everlasting life in His very presence.
11. Jesus’ authority over the storm is a preview of creation’s final restoration at God’s hands. Jesus’ own death and resurrection is the first fruits of the great heavenly harvest when all Christians will be raised up to new life to enjoy the heavenly reign. Until that day, there will be storms on this earth that threaten our lives and livelihood. Not every storm will be miraculously calmed. Even Christians must endure the tribulations in our lives. Such tribulations may be a natural disaster, an illness, or some other horrible calamity. Such disasters will be with us, as the effect of this cursed creation, until Jesus Christ Himself returns on the last day to restore creation in accordance with His Divine will. On that day, neither storms nor death will keep us apart from Christ’s presence, for He is the Lord of heaven and earth. Until that day arrives, we have the assurance of Jesus’ protection. The Church is not a refuge that promises the uncertainties and insecurities of this world will never afflict us (Garland 200). The Church does proclaim Christ Jesus our Savior. Through such preaching, we learn to trust in a Savior who does not deliver us from storms but who delivers us through the storms (Garland 200). Jesus has quieted the violent storm, and we have no reason to fear anything from nature or the supernatural, from life or death (Garland 200). Amen.
12. Let us pray. O Christ Jesus, whose deeds are awesome toward the children of men, send us the Holy Spirit so that we see what good things our Heavenly Father has done for us in You, His only and beloved Son, creation’s Lord, and our Victor over death and the grave. Amen.
One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you!
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Matthew © 1995 by Reuben Joseph Swanson.
Book of Common Prayer, The. Copyright © 1990 Oxford University Press.
Gibbs, Jeffrey A. Matthew 1:1 – 11:1. Copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.
Giertz, Bo. Preaching from the Whole Bible. Clifford A. Nelson, Tr. Copyright © 1967 Augsburg Publishing House.
Löhe, Wilhelm. Seed-Grains of Prayer: A Manual for Evangelical Christians. Wartburg Publishing House, Chicago circa 1912. Concordia Publishing House; Concordia on Demand.